Livestock cloning is the practice of cloning sheep, cattle and other livestock species as a way to improve efficiency. The basic idea behind livestock cloning is to clone animals that have exceptional qualities, such as cows that produce more milk or meat, so that the whole herd can be better. This practice is very controversial, and livestock farmers have been hesitant to adopt it fully because of public opposition and certain inefficiencies.
In technical terms, livestock are cloned by taking cells from one animal and using them to fertilize eggs. Scientists take the fertilized eggs and implant them in female animals so that they can carry the infants. This process doesn’t always work perfectly, and it can be relatively expensive. Many animals are born with deformities and many aren’t carried to term. Scientists are looking for ways to improve the process and make it less expensive to adopt on a wider scale.
Some people who favor livestock cloning don’t necessarily want to use cloned animals as a source of food. Instead, they would sometimes be used as breeding stock so that a whole generation of animals could have some of the same genes on farms in many different areas. For example, a single bull could be cloned several times and each clone could be used to breed cattle across farms all over the world.
Cloned livestock have the potential to provide some major benefits. Farmers are always looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their breeding stock. Animals are often selected based on their physical builds for meat purposes, and other things like ease of handling are sometimes considered. If farmers were able to take only their very best animals and recreate them multiple times, they could potentially be more productive.
There are also some potential problems with cloned livestock. The biggest concern of many experts are the problems that could arise from a reduction in genetic diversity. For example, when a disease hits, there are usually individuals who are immune or more resistant, and they will generally survive. If all the animals were genetically identical or similar, this sort of disease could totally destroy an entire generation of livestock, leaving the world with a massive food shortage.
In addition to concerns about genetic diversity, there is also a lot of concern about the ethics of cloning. These concerns sometimes stem from worries over unforeseen consequences and an overall lack of research. There are also some people who worry that livestock cloning research may be a gateway to introducing human cloning, which is widely distrusted.